GS Paper III Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Ganga, Yamuna termed ‘living persons’

What’s Happening-

  • In a first in the country, the Uttarakhand High Court, declared that the rivers Ganga and Yamuna were “living persons.”
  • On March 15, New Zealand river Whanganui became the first in the world to be granted a legal human status.

Key Points discussed were:

Order on PIL plea:

  • The Division Bench comprising Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by one Mohammad Salim in 2014, gave a landmark judgment stating that the Ganga and the Yamuna must be treated as living entities.
  • “…to protect the recognition and the faith of society, rivers Ganga and Yamuna are required to be declared as legal persons [or] living persons,” stated the court order.
  • “The Ganga and [the] Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams… are declared as juristic [or] legal persons [or] living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna,”.
  • The two rivers, which are sacred for the Hindus, sustain millions of people in the country.
  • The court also directed the central government to constitute the Ganga Management Board within eight weeks to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining the river.
  • Recognizing the rivers as a living entity grants them new found legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India.
  • The two rivers thus have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed/destroyed. They can also be parties to disputes. The rights, experts say, can be used to protect the interests of the rivers.

In a state of neglect

Pollution:

  • The Ganges was ranked as the fifth most polluted river of the world in 2007.
  • Pollution threatens not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
  • The levels of faecal coliform from human waste in the waters of the river near Varanasi are more than 100 times the Indian government’s official limit.

Why Ganga Action Plan failed?

  • The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far, due to corruption, lack of technical expertise, poor environmental planning, and lack of support from religious authorities.

GS Paper II   Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Five Rajasthan villages vote to close liquor shops

What’s Happening-
In a collective show of strength, residents of five villages including Rojda, located about 30 km from here, voted overwhelmingly in favour of closing liquor shops in their Panchayati samiti area.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The day-long referendum was conducted under the supervision of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
  • Residents of Sindolai, Harchandpura, Jaitpura and Sardarpura turned up at Rojda village, which is located in Amber tehsil of Jaipur district, on Sunday to make use of the provision for referendum in the Rajasthan Excise Act, 1975, which has rarely been used.

Only 170 votes in favour:

  • The vote was carried out under the Rajasthan Excise Rules, which empowers a panchayat to opt for closing a liquor shop if 50 per cent of its residents vote for it.
  • Of 2,581 votes, 2,270 or nearly 87% rejected a main liquor shop and its four branches operating for quite some time in the area.
  • Only 170 votes were in favour of the liquor shop, while 141 were invalid.

Procedure for Ban:

  • The district administration would issue a notification soon on the basis of the referendum for permanent closure of all liquor shops in the cluster of five villages.

Impact of Referendum:

  • No liquor shop can be opened in future.
  • Reforming liquor addicts in five villages.

Background-
This is the second instance of referendum over liquor ban in Rajasthan.
Last March, 90% of villagers in Kachchbali panchayat of Rajsamand district had voted against keeping the only licensed liquor outlet open.
The referendum in Rojda village was conducted on the orders of the Rajasthan High Court following a public interest litigation moved by villagers after their 363-day anti-liquor agitation, comprising demonstrations and dharnas, failed to make an impact on the State government.
The landmark Gandhian experiment led by women in this remote Rajasthan village.
The campaign began on Republic Day this year when women from the village raised the demand during a meeting of the gram sabha.
Civil society organisations like Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and resident groups like Magra Shakti Sena lent their support to the campaign, led mostly by women.

GS Paper III  Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Green nod for Neutrino project suspended

What’s Happening-

  • The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal suspended the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) that was to come up in Theni and asked the project proponent to make a fresh application.

Key Points discussed were:

Why NGT suspended?

  • Tribunal told that the Madhikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala was just about 4.9 km from the proposed project site and the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border was just a kilometre away, making it a Category ‘A’ project.

New facts:

  • The Bench comprising Justice P. Jyothimani and expert member P.S. Rao said: “In the light of new facts that have come to light during the arguments, it will be appropriate for us to keep the EC in abeyance.”

CATEGORY A vs B:

  • The MoEF had called it a Category ‘B’ project, for which an Environmental Impact Assessment is not necessary, but the department processed it as an additional measure.
  • However, under the guidelines laid down by the Ministry, any project that falls within 5 km from an inter-State boundary or within a notified national park or a sanctuary has to be considered a Category ‘A’ project that involves a number of processes before an EC is granted.
  • Since it was near a national park, the INO was also asked to get clearance from the National Board for Wildlife. Taking into account these new facts, the Bench disposed of the petition and asked the INO to make a fresh application.

Science Vs Environment:

  • Sekhar Basu, Chairperson of the Department of Atomic Energy said that if the INO cannot come up anywhere in India, the people would just lose in terms of science.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 28

Background-

What is India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)?

What is Neutrino?

  • A neutrino  is a fermion (an elementary particle with half-integer spin) that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity.
  • The mass of the neutrino is much smaller than that of the other known elementary particles.
  • The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small (-ino) that it was originally thought to be zero.
  • The weak force has a very short range, gravity is extremely weak on the subatomic scale, and neutrinos, as leptons, do not participate in the strong interaction. Thus, neutrinos typically pass through normal matter unimpeded and undetected.
  • Although neutrinos were long believed to be massless, it is now known that there are three discrete neutrino masses with different tiny values, but they do not correspond uniquely to the three flavors.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 29